Another week, another killer opponent for the West Linn football team and another chance for the Lions to prove themselves and get better.
West Linn, playing at Sheldon in non-league action on Friday night, traded punches with the talented Irish all night and trailed by just two points at the end of the third quarter before finally falling 42-27 in a game that saw starting quarterback Ethan Long knocked out of commission with an ankle injury.
Long, an Arizona State commit, suffered an ankle injury late in the first quarter and did not return to the game. West Linn coach Chris Miller described Long's injury as an ankle sprain, and while he did not say for sure that Long would play Friday against Lakeridge — the Lions host the Pacers at 7 p.m. — he did say Long would be back soon.
"Hopefully, he'll heal quickly and be ready for Friday," Miller said. "He was walking around pretty good (on Tuesday)."
With the loss, the 19th-ranked Lions fell to 2-1 in non-league play, while the second-ranked Irish improved to 2-1 (their only loss a 51-50 setback to Washington's Graham Kapowsin High School on Aug. 31).
In Friday's game, West Linn drew first blood, getting a 2-yard Dawson Jolley touchdown run after Sheldon fumbled a punt and West Linn's Cole Peters recovered at the Irish's 30.
But West Linn's lead lasted less than a minute as Sheldon's Zach Folsom returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a TD — the first kickoff return for a score in Miller's 4+years at the Lions' helm — to tie the game 7-7.
Then, after Long was injured on a failed fourth-down run at the Sheldon 3-yard line, the Lions handed the reins to junior Ethan Coleman. On his second series, Coleman led the Lions on a 75-yard scoring drive, capping the march with a 3-yard TD pass to Tanner Moore with just under three minutes remaining in the half.
Sheldon responded again in short order, with quarterback Michael Johnson Jr. hitting Patrick Herbert for 33 yards and Johnson scoring from 3 yards out to take a 14-13 edge with 1 minute, 17 seconds to go in the half.
In the third quarter, following a Sheldon interception, the Irish extended their lead to 21-13 when Johnson connected with Folsom for an 11-yard score. Then it was West Linn's turn to answer, driving 71 yards and closing within 21-19 on Jolley's 7-yard run. Coleman hit Jake Mastrandrea twice for big pickups on the drive.
But Sheldon took over with two quick scores at the start of the fourth quarter, the first of those a 1-yard run by Matthew Burgess and the second a 4-yarder by Burgess that extended the Irish lead to 35-19.
West Linn cut that deficit to 35-27 when Coleman hit Mastrandrea for an 11-yard score, then connected with him again on the two-point conversion throw with 1:55 left in the game. But Burgess followed with his third TD, a 17-yarder, to cap the scoring.
While the Lions were disappointed with the loss, there were still a lot of good things that came from the result, notably Coleman's efforts — he went 23 of 39 passing for 261 yards with two TDs and one interception.
"Ethan Coleman did a lot of good things," Miller said. "He made some good throws, some big throws and some clutch throws. He was calm and poised."
Jolley had another big game, too, rushing 22 times for 166 yards and two scores, while Mastrandrea made 10 catches for 118 yards.
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